Medical Definition of Warfarin

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Warfarin: An anticoagulant drug (brand names: Coumarin, Panwarfin, Sofarin) taken to prevent the blood from clotting and to treat blood clots and overly thick blood. Warfarin is also used to reduce the risk of clots causing strokes or heart attacks.

Warfarin works by suppressing the production of some clotting factors (interfering with prothrombin activation) and thereby inhibiting the clotting of blood.

Warfarin interacts with many other drugs, including some vitamins. These interactions can be dangerous, even life-threatening. If you are taking Warfarin, talk to your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medications.

University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor Karl Paul Link and his co-workers first isolated dicoumarin, a molecule in spoiled sweet clover that causes cattle to hemorrhage and die. The discovery led to the synthesis of Dicumarol, the first anticoagulant drug that could be taken orally. The successor to Dicumarol was Warfarin.

Warfarin is named after WARF, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, to which Professor Link assigned the patent. Warfarin was originally marketed as a rodenticide (the rats bleed to death). Its effectiveness in controlling pestilent rats and mice led to great commercial success. Warfarin has, in addition, become the most widely prescribed anticoagulant drug for people and saved countless lives.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018


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